Congress Passes $1.3 Trillion Government Funding Bill, Averts Shutdown

Updated at 12:55 a.m. ET Friday

The Senate voted early Friday to pass a roughly $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the government through Sept. 3. The move avoided a government shutdown.

The massive spending package easily passed in both the House and the Senate. The Senate vote was 65-32. The House approved it hours earlier 256-167. President Trump is expected to sign the measure.

The Senate’s vote wrapped up what may be the last major legislative achievement ahead of the midterm elections in November. But the 2,232-page spending bill remained mired in controversy after leaders rushed the measure through rounds of speedy votes.

The massive spending measure includes significant boosts to U.S. military spending supported by the president and congressional Republicans, while Democrats secured boosts to domestic spending that most Republicans oppose.

Congressional leaders celebrated the legislation publicly while they worked behind the scenes to persuade skeptics to back the legislation. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., joined other Republicans in highlighting the military spending increases.

“With the biggest increase in defense funding in 15 years,” Ryan said in a statement Wednesday. “This critical legislation begins to reverse the damage of the last decade and allows us to create a 21st-century fighting force.”

He is working to tamp down anger among conservatives over spending increases as well as changes to gun policy. Among their chief concerns, the legislation would usher in a period of trillion-dollar deficits at a time when Republicans have complete control of the federal government.

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said Wednesday that they plan to oppose the bill over those concerns.

“That is not in any way close what the election was about, close to what we campaigned on,” said Ohio Republican Jim Jordan. “Not close to what we told the American people we were going to accomplish if they gave us the privilege to serve and be in power.”

Democrats are facing a separate set of frustrations from the left flank of their party. Many immigration advocates are angry that the legislation includes $1.6 billion in border security money without corresponding protections for immigrants currently protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., focused instead on spending increases for domestic programs.

“Every bill takes compromise, and there was plenty here, but at the end of the day, we Democrats feel very good because so many of our priorities for the middle class were included,” Schumer said. “From opioid funding to rural broadband, and from student loans to child care, this bill puts workers and families first.”

The agreement is loaded with dozens of unrelated policies, known as “riders,” ranging from gun control to election security aimed at wooing skeptical lawmakers to back the deal.

Adding riders is a common — if sometimes controversial — practice used by both parties and the president to jockey for their priorities because they are guaranteed to become law on a must-pass spending bill.

The fight over border security and immigration became a major drag on negotiations in recent weeks with both sides refusing to negotiate.

The White House initially wanted $25 billion, but Democrats pushed for a far smaller amount with explicit restrictions on how the money could be spent.

The final $1.6 billion agreement would fund new fencing along roughly 30 miles of the border that was authorized under an earlier bill. Negotiators also reached a deal to repair existing fencing while explicitly protecting the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.

The bill also includes nearly $700 million for election security, including additional money for the FBI to conduct counter-intelligence to fight Russian cyberattacks. States would benefit from an infusion of money for election technology grants to keep elections systems safe.

Negotiators included several bipartisan items, like $2.8 billion to battle opioid addiction as well as major funding increases for the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal highway projects and high-speed broadband development.

But what isn’t included is nearly as significant as what made it in the bill.

The spending measure is widely expected to be one of the last must-pass bills to come up for a vote this year, meaning immigration has few opportunities for consideration in the coming months.

Looming midterm election and the reality that the political season will soon overtake any ability to advance any major legislation before Election Day.

Democrats remain frustrated that the bill does not deal with immigration. Many immigration advocates worry that DACA cannot pass if it is not included in a broader bipartisan bill.

Republicans also struck down a push to include subsidy payments that would help shore up the individual market places under the Affordable Care Act and partially subsidize premiums for some low-income workers.

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